I first went to this museum with my sister when I was about 8 or 9 years old. When looking for something to do on Monday, I asked my friend, Emma, if she wanted to go here with me since I havent been for ages. My older sister, Joanne, lives in South Shields so we met her and my niece (23 months) at the museum on Monday morning.
I got slightly lost getting to South Shields as I took the wrong turn at a roundabout, but as it was my furthest venture in my car on my own (about 25 miles) I was still quite pleased I found it without too much hassle! On arriving at South Shields I met my sister and followed her into the town centre, as I dont know my way around South Shields. (The museum is signposted though)
The entry into the museum is free and although we just spent about an hour and a half there (my sister was going to Uni. and I didnt know how to get back to the Tyne Tunnel!) I think a morning or an afternoon could be filled in easily if everything is looked at and read thoroughly.
The museum is a five-minute walk away from South Shields Metro Station, at the heart of the main shopping area in South Shields. We parked our cars in a car park about a 2-minute walk away from the museum (the parking in this car park cost £1.20 for up to two hours).
To get into the museum we had to walk through the gift shop and up a few steps, though there is flat access to the museum. There are lifts to all floors and induction loops in some areas.
There are lots of exhibits about South Tyneside and its history. I didnt read all of the information as I was talking to Joanne and Emma as we were walking around the museum. I enjoyed looking at the exhibits.
When we first went in, there was a film being played with local people speaking about the area etc. The footage also had an interpreter, whom I watched for a little while, as I havent practised my BSL in ages.
I especially liked the old street with a shop front. Although, the museum has been redeveloped since I was last there (about 10 years ago!) the street remains there, and this is something (about the only thing) I remembered about the museum before I went back. I liked the street and shop as I liked imagining what it would have been like to live in the area about 100 years ago.
Explore history during the life and times of Catherine Cookson
Best-selling author Catherine Cookson was born in South Tyneside and used the area as inspiration for many of her novels. Therefore, a local history museum about South Tyneside, would not be complete without information about Cooksons life. There was a room which was done out like her childhood home. I liked looking at this, again as my imagination took hold :-) You could also see Catherines Emmy award and the big red book from This is Your Life.
Also in the Catherine Cookson part was a board, set out like the cover of one of her books (The Round Tower) in which you could put two faces in. Joanne took a picture of Emma and me on this :-)
There were some interesting facts about South Tyneside including some information about the UKs tiniest baby, which was born in South Tyneside. There were little knitted booties, which were really tiny! I could hardly believe that a baby would have fitted into them!
There was part of the museum which looked like the inside of a ship, complete with cabin beds (you could try them but I chose not to!) and porthole. I liked this part, as I have never been in a real ship so it gave me an idea of what it would look like.
There was an area with animals in but I only had a little look as they were snakes, tarantulas, and bearded dragons etc. I went in to look at the bearded dragon, as I dont think Ive ever seen one but I didnt much like the look of it (sorry for anyone who likes bearded dragons!)
Next to this area was the Land, River and Sea exhibition but it was closed for redevelopment. Joanne says it is usually quite good and has information about the Metros etc, so I was disappointed that this bit was closed. The leaflet for the museum says Discover how South Tynesides natural surroundings have influenced the history and look of the area from prehistoric times to today. See how the River Tyne and North Sea have dominated the development of the area. I think this sounds really good and I think I might go back one day when it is open (it didnt say when it will re-open so Ill just have to ask Joanne to keep looking every now and then when shes in town!)
We then went upstairs, Emma and me walked up the stairs as we liked the look of the staircase, but Joanne took Toni up in the lift (because of Tonis pushchair). We then met them at the top and went into the exhibition room. This exhibition changes and at the moment it is shoes! (Joanne thought this is why I wanted to go but I didnt know about it until I got there!)
I really liked the shoe exhibition. There were lots of shoes on display, from really old ones (from archaeological sites) to more modern ones. We let Toni out of her pushchair in this room as it was quiet and she loves shoes too! I enjoyed reading information about the shoes and looking at how the styles have changed. There was a little table and some chairs where Toni enjoyed sitting and colouring a picture of a shoe. There was also a part where you could touch shoes and Toni absolutely loved this part. She kept taking the shoes of the shelf and showing them to me before putting them back where she got them!
The art gallery had some nice paintings on display as well as some hands-on activities to help explain some of the techniques used in art. Toni liked touching some of these. I help her make a face from magnetic face shapes and we looked at ourselves in the mirror (something else Toni loves to do!) There was a donation box in this part of the museum. I gave Toni some coins to put in and she enjoyed watching them spin before hitting the bottom. Emma and Joanne then gave her some to put in as well :-)
Before we left we visited the gift shop. This sells a large range of souvenirs and memorabilia. I bought some nougat (75p) and two pencils (30p each for my nephews as they were at school on Monday and I didnt want them to miss out completely). There was lots of nice gifts etc, but I didnt want to buy anything more as I was trying to have a cheap day out!
South Shields tourist information is located in the shop and I picked up a few leaflets from here. The museum has a meeting room, which is available for private functions and events.
I really enjoyed my trip to this museum and would recommend it, as it was an interesting and cheap morning out :-)
~ How do I get there? ~
The museum is located on a pedestrianised road and is just five minutes from South Shields Metro and Bus Stations. There is a public car park at the rear of the museum, which is signposted.
South Tyneside is easy to reach by air, rail, sea, car and public transport. Newcastle's international airport is just 15 miles away and the Metro rail service can take you from within the terminal right into the heart of South Shields.
The A1 (M), A19 (via the Tyne Tunnel) and A194 major trunk roads lead into South Tyneside where they link up with a modern network of dual carriageways that give access to all parts. (From www.visitsouthtyneside.co.uk)
~ Other Information ~
Address: Ocean Road, South Shields, NE33 2JA
Telephone: 0191 456 8740
Fax: 0191 456 7850
Easter to October: Monday to Saturday 10.00am to 5.30pm, Sunday 1.00pm to 5.00pm.
October to Easter: Monday to Saturday 10.00am to 5.00pm.
Thanks for reading!
South Shields Museum and Art Gallery is one of the most successful local museums in the country and is situated in the heart of South Shields. The museum's major collections celebrate the strong natural and social history of the area.